Which U.S. State Has the Highest Cancer Rates?

Southern U.S. states rank the worst in cancer rates overall.
Trevor English

Cancer is one of the biggest killers of any single ailment on the entire planet. 20,000 people die every day from cancer and it's estimated that 7.6 million will die of the disease this year. Not to mention that 12 million people will find out that they have the disease this year as well.

Cancer is no joke, but medicine and treatment is getting better. Statistically speaking, each person's odds of getting cancer varies based on genetics and a variety of other factors, even where you live. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, catalogs all of the data for cancer rates in the U.S. by state and even city. This means that you can garner some interesting insights into how likely you are to get cancer just by what state you live in. 

So, let's take a look at the data and answer some common questions. 

What state has the highest cancer rates and cases?

The U.S. state of Kentucky has the highest cancer rates of any other state, both in number of diagnoses and number of deaths. 10,145 people died of cancer in 2017 in the state, the last year of record. That comes out to 185.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017 being caused by cancer.

The state of Mississippi follows up Kentucky with 6,526 deaths in 2017, equating to a death rate of 183.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

What state in the United States has the lowest cancer rate?

Utah has the lowest cancer rate in the U.S. with only 3,161 dying of the disease in 2017. That comes out to a rate of 101.9 deaths per 100,000 people. For comparison's sake, in Utah in the same year, 3,749 died of heart disease.

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Following up Utah is the state of Hawaii with only 2,456 dying of cancer in 2017. This is notably fewer people than Utah, but it was a higher percentage of the population, at a death rate of 128.6 per 100,000 people.


Both of these states are highly outdoors and activity-oriented, so it's not a huge surprise that they would have the lowest cancer death rates of all U.S. states. 

What state has the highest rate of breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, regardless of race or ethnicity within the U.S. It is also the most common cause of cancer death for hispanic women as well as the 2nd most common cause of cancer death for most other ethnicities. 

That said, the state with the highest breast cancer rate is the District of Colombia, having a breast cancer rate of 23.2 for every 100,000 women. However, looking at bulk numbers, the state with the most deaths from breast cancer is California at 4,308 in 2016.

Which state has the most cancer deaths?

While Florida is only ranked 38/50 on cancer death rate, due to its size of population, it had the highest number of total cancer deaths in the state in 2017 with a total of 45,131.

Interestingly, that's roughly equivalent to the number of people who died of heart disease in the state, at 46,440.

What ethnicity gets cancer the most? 

The answer to this question changes based on how you measure it.

Looking into specific cancers, African-American males have the highest death rate of lung cancer whereas Hispanic females have the lowest. White, non-Hispanic women have the highest incidence rate of breast cancer, but African-American women have the highest death rate. African-American men have the highest incidence rate of prostate cancer as well as the highest death rate. 

At the end of the day, cancer doesn't discriminate, but there is an endless number of statistics to look into in how cancer affects the U.S. population. Feel free to explore the CDC website's interactive map here.

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